I bumped into someone at the local co-operative supermarket here in Yellowknife during the Christmas season and they wondered if I was going to do a Top 10 list, as I always do to ring in the new year of Sports Talk. This person suggested I do the best 10 plays as something different. Since you all know how I roll, there isn’t a snowflake’s chance in Alabama I’m going to do that.

Jurickson Profar is smiling here but he wasn’t doing much smiling after being picked off after a seemingly harmless base hit at the 2016 World Baseball Classic. photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I’m all about schadenfreude and so in honour of that suggestion, here comes the best of the worst from what I saw in 2017. Enjoy.

#10 – Swing and a miss

Safe to say Kevin Fiala of the Nashville Predators didn’t have the best of nights against the Calgary Flames on Oct. 24.

Fiala had what could only be described as the open-est of open nets and flubbed it. It all began after Calgary goaltender Mike Smith misplayed a shoot-in around the boards and Fiala was seemingly Johnny-on-the-spot in the slot with a yawning cage and hit nothing but air. He has an out because the puck was dancing around but it’s still funny.

Problem, though, came as he was going to the bench. When you miss an open net like that, sure, you’re pissed off and you take it out on the stick. It’s the stick’s fault, after all. But he swung it so wildly that when the blade snapped off after managing to destroy it (on the second try of smashing it against the boards) he managed to hit one of his assistant coaches with the remnants. The linesman by the bench was also in the line of fire.

Good job, Kevin. A 10-year-old would have been proud.

#9 – Three, two, one …

Delayed reactions are always funny, especially when it happens in soccer. Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal gave us Exhibit A of why that is on April 27 against Leicester City.

Leicester’s Christian Fuchs was trying to throw the ball back into play after going into touch. Sanchez was guarding the throw-in, a bit too close for Fuchs’ liking. After one failed attempt, Fuchs decided to drill Sanchez with the ball on his shoulder. Naturally, Sanchez had no reaction to it until he realized he could milk this one. And down he went holding his face after a three-count.

Every single replay showed the ball coming nowhere near his cranium but since this is soccer, every body part acts the same once it’s been hit. The referee was having nothing of it and gave Sanchez a yellow card for standing too close. All I could think of is Rivaldo during the 2002 World Cup and his near-death experience after being hit by the ball in his leg and holding his face circa Jack Nicholson in Batman all those years ago.

#8 – A real nutcracker

It never fails – I always seem to find one of these every year. It came in early January 2017 during a cricket test match between Australia and Pakistan. Hilton Cartwright was making his debut with the Aussies and it’s one he won’t (or may want to) forget.

Cartwright was fielding during Pakistan’s batting innings and in one particular over, he found himself fielding in what’s known as the “silly point”. In layperson’s terms, it’s the spot off the leg-stump, literally a few feet from the batsman, defending against a defensive shot after a leg-spin bowl. Essentially, you have to be silly to play there and it’s almost a sure thing that Cartwright won’t be playing there again anytime soon.

You wouldn’t either if the Pakistani batter wound up and fired one toward Cartwright and squared him right in the bishop. It came off the bat so fast that Cartwright had no chance to move. Watch the video and I’ll be damned if you don’t have the same reaction I did. On behalf of men everywhere, Hilton, I salute you. And yes, he checked it to make sure it was still there.

#7 – He meant well?

Listen, we all say things we regret. No one is immune. Just ask Mohammed Anas.

Anas plays with the Free State Stars of the South African Premier League and was named Man of the Match after a two-goal performance against Ajax Cape Town last March. He did an interview on live T.V. afterward and let everyone know how happy he was. So happy that this gem slipped out:

And I appreciate my fans also, my wife and my girlfriend … yeah my wife. Sorry for saying that! I’m so sorry … I love you so much with all my heart!”

Slip of the tongue? Maybe because we don’t know what Anas does in his spare time but he cleared things up by saying he was referring to his daughter when he made the “girlfriend” crack. Which could be something even more weird?

#6 – And that’s a wrap

The 2017 World Men’s Hockey Championship just wasn’t meant to be for Italy. Alexander Egger put the exclamation point on that in Italy’s final game against Denmark.

Leading 2-1 in the third period, Denmark had Italy pinned in its own end late in the game as the Italians looked to break out and get the tying goal with the extra attacker and the goalie pulled. Egger was backpedaling in his own zone with the puck when he hit a rut and fell. And you know how this ended up … with the puck in the back of his empty net thanks to Egger’s stick pushing it home. You almost have to feel sorry for Egger in a way because no one feels worse than he does, especially considering it was the final act for Italy at the tournament.

At least he had the defence beat all the way.

#5 – Skillful or unlucky? You decide

Scoring on your own net in any sport is bad enough. There isn’t a hole big enough to crawl into in order to hide. Fankaty Dabo, who plays with Vitesse Arnhem, a soccer team in the Dutch Eredivisie, was unfortunate enough to fall victim to the dreaded own-goal and did it with some style last November.

Dabo was being hounded by an attacking player from Groningen when he tried to pass the ball back to his goalkeeper. He put some mustard on his back-pass and managed to get it back to his ‘keeper but it went all the way into the back of his net. If you’re keeping score on the distance, it measured 35 yards. Dabo couldn’t have missed if he tried; it literally hit the middle of the net, which is always what happens when you net one for the other team.

You’re probably wondering why the ‘keeper didn’t grab the ball with his hands. There’s that little rule about ‘keepers not being able to handle the ball on a back-pass because if they do, it gets whistled down for a free kick right in front of the net. Considering the alternative, I would have grabbed it if I were the ‘keeper. At least make the other team earn it.

#4 – Catch that fish!

I predicted this one would end up in the year-end reel and I’m never wrong.

This one caught the eye of so many around the sports world and it deserves yet another treatment of scorn simply because of the stupidity of it all. Danko Lazovic, who plays with Videoton in Hungary, went for a tumble during a game against Budapest Honved in May. Yes, there was contact but the way Lazovic went on, convulsing like a bad case of rigor mortis on steroids, you’d have thought his life was in jeopardy.

No one was having any of his garbage and it got so bad, his own coach was forced to come to the sideline and tell him to stop acting a fool. He pleaded his case to the referee, who did nothing except tell Lazovic to simply pick his arse up and keep on playing.

There are those times where you wish you could morally grab a player by the scruff and snock the crap out of him. Not legally, mind you, but morally. Danko Lazovic is one of those times I wish I could.

#3 – Take the safety

In football, you need to make it 10 yards in order to get yourself a new set of downs. But if you’re facing third and a whole buttload to get said first down, there are other options you can employ to simply cut your losses.

Mississippi State and Louisiana Tech were having themselves a game in September and the result wasn’t really in doubt at this point as Mississippi State had a 57-14 lead in the fourth quarter. No, Louisiana Tech wasn’t making a comeback and don’t tell me it was possible. It wasn’t.

Louisiana Tech had second and goal at the Mississippi State six-yard line and this is where the fun began. It started with a bad snap by the Lousiana Tech centre, which went over the quarterback’s head. The chase began with the quarterback unable to corral the football. The Mississippi State defensive unit – the entire unit – then began chasing the ball with no less than half a dozen players doing their best Hot Potato routine in failing to corral the football.

A Lousiana Tech player finally fell on the football at his own seven-yard line. If you’re keeping score, that was a loss of 87 yards on what could only be described as one of the greatest games of Greased Pig you’ll ever see in your life. One question remains: am I the only one who was humming the Benny Hill theme in my head after watching this?

#2 – Pay attention, toolbag

Baserunning can sometimes be an art form. Just ask me. There was never any mystery when I was on the basepath. Jurickson Profar, come on down, because you’re the next contestant on How Not To React After A Base Hit.

This happened at the World Baseball Classic semifinals in March. Profar, who played with the Netherlands, smacked a solid single off the starting pitcher from Puerto Rico and made the wide turn around first base, the same turn everyone does after finding some green. That put runners on the corners for the Dutch … or so we thought.

You see, Profar was too busy trying to pump up his dugout and slow-walked it back to first base. Yadier Molina, Puerto Rico’s catcher, alertly saw that Profar was taking his sweet time and fired one down to first base, where Profar was promptly tagged out. The look on Profar’s face is classic because he knew. He didn’t even argue. What was he going to argue? He got caught with his proverbial pants down.

Here’s the worst part: Wladimir Balentien was up to bat next and promptly drilled a two-run shot over the fence. It could have been a three-run shot had Profar not concerned himself with being a tool. The Dutch also lost the game in extra innings, which makes you go hmmm…

And finally …

#1 – Can you call that losing your head?

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t. I pored over many videos to find a winner and there were plenty of candidates but this one is the best blooper of 2017.

Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria competes in track and field as a long jumper. She’s pretty good at it, too, having won a silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. But she may need some reinforcements as her career goes along, the likes of which will be explained.

Firstly, no, she didn’t spring any of her body parts out of her clothing. I know that’s what some of you were thinking and shame on you for doing so. It’s funnier than that. Okagbare was competing at the Diamond League stop in Oslo, Norway, in July. She did everything right: good run-up, great leap off the board and fine landing. One problem, though: her wig didn’t survive the landing. That’s right – Okagbare’s wig came clean off her head.

Here’s the boss part of it all: even after seeing it in the sand, she simply picked it up, fixed the skullcap she wears to hold it in place and just put it back on without a second thought. The other good part is that the jump was legal as she and the wig got the white flag from the officials watching the line.

Now, since a long jumper’s distance is measured by the last point in which they hit the sand, did they take the measurement from the wig? Okagbare travelled further than the wig did but since the wig was part of the body, I wonder if that’s the measurement? I would have checked it for a banned substance.

Until next time, folks …

James McCarthy

I've been hanging around the office as the sports editor for the better part of the last 16 years. In August 2022, NNSL Media decided to promote me to the managing editor's position, which I accepted after...

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